Calls are mounting to extend the four-day truce in Gaza, which is now in its final day. Hamas backed the extension Sunday, as have international mediators Egypt, Qatar and the United States. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is open to extending the truce by one day for every 10 hostages released by Hamas. A total of 58 hostages have been released so far, including citizens of Thailand, the Philippines and Russia. A 4-year-old American girl, Abigail Edan, was among the captives released Sunday. One hundred seventeen Palestinian prisoners have been freed from Israeli detention during the truce. Scenes of reunited families and celebrations over the weekend offered a glimpse of hope amid the temporary lull in fighting. In the occupied West Bank, Palestinians celebrated on the streets as their loved ones returned. This is Hanan Takatkah, a mother in Bethlehem whose son was freed on Friday.
Hanan Takatkah: “It was an indescribable feeling and happiness when I heard that there was a deal, thank God. In Palestine, our joy is not complete. We are happy that our children are released, but our joy is not complete. First of all, our families, children and beloved ones in Gaza are full of blood. At the end, we were very happy for our children, but there was a price we paid. There were other children who died.”
Ahead of the prisoners’ release, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir banned celebrations in East Jerusalem and ordered police to raid the homes of prisoners’ families. Ben-Gvir said, “My instructions are clear: There are to be no expressions of joy.”
Some 15,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel’s assault on Gaza started on October 7, mostly women and children. Researchers say the rate of death is unprecedented in this century. The assault has also caused mass displacement and widespread destruction, including to hospitals and other essential infrastructure. Some displaced Gazans said they were barred by Israeli forces from reentering the neighborhoods and homes they fled. Meanwhile, the Red Crescent said northern Gaza is finally getting an influx of aid thanks to the truce.